Category: Politics and Science

Rick Perry Doesn't Believe Much in Science, But He Sure Believes in His Social Science "Eggheads"

By The Intersection | August 24, 2011 4:46 pm

Egghead Minions

By Jon Winsor

Rick Perry leaves a lot to be desired on science policy. But paradoxically, his campaign makes rigorous use of the scientific method–more than any other campaign. According to reporter Sasha Issenberg, the Perry campaign has a team they call “the eggheads” who advise them on what campaign appearances they should schedule and when. Here’s Issenberg interviewed in the New York Times:

No candidate has ever presided over a political operation so skeptical about the effectiveness of basic campaign tools and so committed to using social-science methods to rigorously test them.

As the 2006 election season approached, the governor’s top strategist, Dave Carney, invited four political scientists into Perry’s war room and asked them to impose experimental controls on any aspect of the campaign budget that they could randomize and measure. Over the course of that year, the eggheads, as they were known within the campaign, ran experiments testing the effectiveness of all the things that political consultants do reflexively and we take for granted: candidate appearances, TV ads, robocalls, direct mail. These were basically the political world’s version of randomized drug trials, which had been used by academics but never from within a large-scale partisan campaign… Read More

Michael Mann Cleared Again

By The Intersection | August 24, 2011 1:17 pm

Michael MannBy Jon Winsor

Yet another organization, this time the National Science Foundation, has cleared climate scientist Michael Mann of wrongdoing (here is a pdf of the report closeout memorandum).

Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed.

The NSF also studied the university emails related to “climategate” and found “nothing contained in them evidenced research misconduct within the definition in the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation.”

Penn State’s earlier investigation concluded (pdf available here):

“An Investigatory Committee of faculty members with impeccable credentials” has unanimously “determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.”

His work “clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field…. Dr. Mann’s work, from the beginning of his career, has been recognized as outstanding.“

Hmmm. The conspiracy spreads. Now, it’s not only Mann and his university who are in cahoots, but also the National Science Foundation?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Politics and Science

Huntsman Takes His Pro-Science Message On the Air

By The Intersection | August 20, 2011 11:19 pm

By Jon Winsor

According to Tech President and, Thursday’s pro-science tweet by Jon Huntsman was one of the most effective tweets on record by a GOP candidate. The 90 character message was retweeted over 3600 times (50% higher than Sarah Palin’s best) and earned him 4,275 followers on a single day. It also earned attention from major newspapers, such as the New York Times. Attention isn’t poll numbers (Huntsman isn’t polling well) but it’s attention.

Perhaps sensing that this could be an important theme for him, Huntsman is taking it to the airwaves. Jake Tapper posted some excepts from his interview with Huntsman airing tomorrow on ABC’s This Week:

TAPPER: These comments from Governor Perry prompted you to Tweet, quote:  “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming.  Call me crazy.” Were you just being cheeky or do you think there’s a serious problem with what Governor Perry said?

HUNTSMAN:  I think there’s a serious problem.  The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem.  We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.  When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.

The Republican Party has to remember that we’re drawing from traditions that go back as far as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush.  And we’ve got a lot of traditions to draw upon.  But I can’t remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a – a party that – that was antithetical to science. I’m not sure that’s good for our future and it’s not a winning formula. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics and Science
MORE ABOUT: Jon Huntsman

Huntsman's Campaign Calls Out Perry on Science Denial

By The Intersection | August 18, 2011 10:05 pm


By Jon Winsor

For the past few days, the Perry campaign has been laying down some serious anti-science markers. Between saying “a substantial number of [climate] scientists… have manipulated data” (an accusation they couldn’t come close to substantiating) and saying, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution,” Perry has been going all out for the anti-science primary vote.

A lone, unambiguous, pro-science voice in the Republican field, Jon Huntsman tweeted today:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

You’re not crazy, former governor Huntsman, you’re just working in a field where rational activity has had, shall we say, a strange definition in recent years.

Earlier in the week, Huntsman’s strategist John Weaver reacted to both Perry and Romney’s recent statements:

“We’re not going to win a national election if we become the anti-science party,” John Weaver, Huntsman’s chief strategist, said in an interview Wednesday. “The American people are looking for someone who lives in reality and is a truth teller because that’s the only way that the significant problems this country faces can be solved. It appears that the only science that Mitt Romney believes in is the science of polling, and that science clearly was not a mandatory course for Governor Perry.”

Weaver was also John McCain’s chief strategist in 2000 and 2008. In June, Weaver told Esquire magazine “There’s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party… No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Like with Weaver’s previous campaigns, this one seems to involve a large dose of straight talk.

Perry’s God Strategy May Be Effective. Science Explains Why.

By The Intersection | August 9, 2011 12:31 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy watcher, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

This week Texas Governor Rick Perry took part in a prayer rally in Houston Texas.  In doing so, he may have found a recipe for success in the 2012 Republican Presidential primaries, if he chooses to run.  According to attendees, his brief remarks and his role in organizing the event garnered their admiration, which bodes well for the Governor.

Perry’s solution to America’s problems?


In his comments to the congregation, Perry laid it out quite clearly,

“I tell people, that “personal property” and the ownership of that personal property is crucial to our way of life.

Our founding fathers understood that it was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it’s in jeopardy.

It’s in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.”

I think it’s time for us to use our wisdom and our influence and really put it in God’s hands. That’s what I’m going to do, and I hope you’ll join me.”

Science tells us that Perry’s message combined with the current political and economic turmoil may drive voters in his direction.  Read More

The Light Bulb Wars: Lots of Heat, Very Little Light Coming from Conservative Talk Radio

By The Intersection | July 16, 2011 12:24 am

by Jon Winsor

Conventional incandescent light bulbs are tremendously inefficient. Only about 10% of the energy used to power the light bulb actually goes to producing light, and the remaining 90% is emitted as heat. And it’s easy to see why. An incandescent bulb filament relies on the fact that it’s a poor conductor of electricity. It’s essentially the same concept used by inexpensive space heaters. So doubtless, the technology could be improved—the same way that many appliances have been improved by efficiency standards over the years.

At least that was the way Fred Upton (R – MI) was thinking when he helped craft a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA), which was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007with support from manufacturers, who have since invested millions in retooling their factories. The provision didn’t choose “winners and losers” as far as light bulb technology goes. Incandescent bulbs were fine, as long as they met the standard. Under the law, as the Christian Science Monitor reported,

…general-purpose light bulbs must become about 30 percent more energy efficient. Different bulb classes face different deadlines, all between 2012 and 2014. The old Edison bulb gets killed on January 1, 2012. But more-efficient incandescent bulbs, which use only 72 watts to give the same output as an old 100-watt Edison bulb, will still be sold.

While Edison bulbs today are about 30-50 cents apiece, updated versions cost $1.50. But the latter pay for themselves in energy savings in about six months.

These bulbs also last about 50% longer, and households were expected to save $100 to $200 per year under the new standards. Not to mention the power plants that wouldn’t need to be built, the gains in US energy independence, and the gains in US jobs (the Guardian reports that presently no US factory manufactures the old 100 watt light bulbs).

Enter Rush Limbaugh.

Read More

Gore and the Media

By The Intersection | June 27, 2011 11:54 pm

by Jon Winsor

Chris wrote last week that Gore was “operating, big time, in liberal enlightenment mode.” This is true, no doubt. Gore himself seems aware of a mismatch between the way he communicates and the demands of the media environment, saying, “I don’t think I’m very good at some of the things that the modern political system rewards and requires,” and that the way the system operates presents “real problems for a politics based on reason.”

But Gore can still have some excellent points to make about that system. As James Fallows wrote last week:

Al Gore’s new essay in Rolling Stone, about impending climate disasters, is mainly about the failure of the media to direct adequate attention to the issue, and to call out paid propagandists and discredited phony scientists. That’s where the essay starts, and what it covers in its first 5,000 words. The second part, less than half as long, and much more hedged in its judgment, is about the Obama Administration’s faltering approach on climate change. But of course the immediate press presentation on the essay has been all “OMG Gore attacks Obama!”

…Yes, the news value here is Gore-v-Obama; yes, that’s part of the story. But the theme I tried to lay out in that essay is that the media’s all-consuming interest in the “how” and “who’s ahead” of politics, and “oh God this is boring” disdain for the “what” and “why” of public issues, has all sorts of ugly consequences. It makes the public think that politics is not for them unless they love the insider game; it makes the “what” and “why” of public issues indeed boring and unapproachable; and as a consequence of the latter, it makes the public stupider than it needs to be about the what and why.

The reaction to Gore’s essay illustrates the pattern: from his point of view, it’s one more (earnest) attempt to say “Hey, listen up about this problem!” As conveyed by the press, it’s one more skirmish on the “liberals don’t like Obama” front, and one more illustration of the eyes-glazing-over trivia and details about melting icebergs and scientific disputes.

Remember Jon Stewart’s argument, that the real bias of the mainstream media is not “liberal” but in favor of conflict and sensationalism. Hmmmm. Read More

MORE ABOUT: al gore

The Conservative "Class War" against Expertise

By The Intersection | June 18, 2011 11:11 am

By Jon Winsor

One of the most surprising things about the Santorum interview on Limbaugh last week was how completely unsurprising it was. Here’s Santorum’s take on climate science:

There’s a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create — it’s a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It’s been on a warming trend so they said, “Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it’s getting warmer,” just like they did in the seventies when it was getting cool, they needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it’s getting cooler.  It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life…

Got that? Scientists (who we can assume are included under what Santorum means by “the left”) are secretly “concocting” the science, because they want government to “control your life.” Obviously, this is not much of a scientific argument. But it’s a very recognizable political argument, and the kind we hear repeatedly. And some of us may remember the early 80’s when it was a new argument, at least in the mass-circulated form that we we see it in today. I would argue that the person most responsible for putting that argument into circulation was Irving Kristol. In 1975, he wrote:

[The] “new class” consists of scientists, lawyers, city planners, social workers, educators, criminologists, sociologists, public health doctors, etc.-a substantial number of whom find their careers in the expanding public sector rather than the private. The public sector, indeed, is where they prefer to be. They are, as one says, “idealistic”-i.e., far less interested in individual financial rewards than in the corporate power of their class. Though they continue to speak the language of “Progressive-reform,” in actuality they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call “the welfare state” toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfill many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Politics and Science

The Movement Conservative Style: Men without Footnotes

By The Intersection | June 16, 2011 11:36 pm


by Jon Winsor

In Monday’s piece on Rush Limbaugh, Chris mentions Rush’s confidence—that Limbaugh has psychologically “seized and freezed” on “climategate”, using it for his go-to excuse to end all discussion on climate.

It’s true that Rush is nothing if not confident. But this is partly a matter of what Rush Limbaugh does all day, nearly every day. As Nate Silver pointed out, there are certain demands that the medium of talk radio makes. Uncertainty and shades of grey don’t play well to Rush’s audience, who are often mowing their lawns and channel surfing through stations. So Rush has developed certain professional skills and habits to give his audience what it wants, which isn’t trenchant analysis of a topic, isn’t a discussion informed by reliable sources–Rush is above all an entertainer, as he often reminds us. And it seems he doesn’t feel he owes his audience much more than that.

…Which has me thinking of the conservatives who didn’t think of themselves as entertainers, who probably served as Limbaugh’s inspirations, and who originally worked in the medium of the essay and op-ed, not radio. Recently, a number of columnists have been reflecting on the work of the late Irving Kristol (whose work will be published soon in a new collection of essays). Most of the columns I’ve read make the following two points: 1) that Kristol was immensely influential (and not just an essayist–the word impresario often crops up), and 2) that Kristol continually drew conclusions that oversimplified his subjects—but drew those conclusions in so confident a way, so unacknowledging of other views, that his work seemed designed to simply end productive discussion.

Read More

The Left-Right Expertise Gap: Considering the Data

By Chris Mooney | June 14, 2011 11:08 am

This is the first of several posts elaborating on my recent American Prospect magazine article entitled “The Reality Gap: Now more than Ever, Republicans and Democrats are separated by expertise–and by facts.”

Perhaps the first thing you have to understand, in determining how America became so “truthy“–i.e., unable to agree on what reality even is on contested issues–is the changing political alignment of academics, scientists, and postgraduates in general over the last several decades.

Here are the data, and they are really striking (although how to interpret them is a different matter). As reported in my Prospect piece:

In one of the most comprehensive surveys of American professors, sociologists Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia and Solon Simmons of George Mason found that 51 percent described themselves as Democrats, and 35.3 percent described themselves as independents–with the bulk of those independents distinctly Democrat-leaning, rather than straddling the center. Just 13.7 percent were Republicans. Academia has long been a liberal bastion, but it hasn’t always been this lopsided. According to Gross, professors have been drifting to the left since the late 1960s, gradually carrying us into today’s very unbalanced expertise environment.

Gross and Simmons’ findings parallel the results of surveys on two overlapping groups: scientists and those with graduate degrees (whether or not they stay in academe)… Read More


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